Missouri (2-5, 0-4 SEC) snapped a five-game slide with its 68-21 win against Idaho last week. The win was the Tigers' first since their season opener on Sept. 2. While there hasn't been much reason for optimism for Missouri this year, fans were treated to a 658-yard performance by the Tigers' offense on Homecoming. It's been a rough go of things in Columbia this season, and it doesn't look to get any easier as four SEC opponents await the Tigers after this week's contest against Connecticut.
The Huskies welcome the Tigers to East Hartford for their second-ever matchup against the SEC opponent. UConn is riding a two-game win streak after last week's 20-14 home victory over Tulsa. Like Missouri, UConn (3-4, 2-3 AAC) also found itself on a multi-game slide following a season-opening win, dropping its next four games before stabilizing against Temple on Oct. 14. A win against Missouri would put the Huskies two wins away from bowl eligibility, but back-to-back games against South Florida and UCF (both undefeated) follow Saturday's contest, making this game a must-win if UConn has any hopes of playing in the postseason.
Missouri defeated UConn 9-6 when the teams met in 2015 in their first and only meeting.
Missouri at UConn
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Missouri -13
Three Things to Watch
1. Missouri's passing attack
The Tigers' 2-5 overall record certainly doesn't suggest it, but quarterback Drew Lock (above, right) has quietly led Missouri's passing offense to No. 2 in the SEC. Lock has thrown for 2,190 yards, and his 23 touchdown passes lead all conference passers. Lock's 23 scoring tosses this season tie the career high he set last year, and his 16.85 yards per completion number ranks tops in FBS.
The junior went 23-for-33 for 467 yards and six touchdowns against one interception last week against Idaho, and he posted 521 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception in Missouri's season-opening win against Missouri State.
UConn's pass defense is the worst in the nation, giving up 373.4 yards per game, and Lock should feast against the porous unit.
2. UConn's pass rush
UConn's defense is coming off a six-sack performance against Tulsa, part of a defensive effort that limited Tulsa to two touchdowns. The Huskies defense also put together a three-sack performance against SMU in September.
Fans of strong line play are in for a treat, as Missouri ranks tied for No. 11 in FBS in sacks allowed. The Tigers' offensive line has allowed just six sacks totaling 42 yards through seven games this year. UConn checks in at No. 53 in FBS with its 16 sacks on the season.
3. Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall
When it comes to yards per catch, no receiver in the nation ranks higher than Hall. Heading into Saturday, he's averaging a nation-leading 28.38 yards per reception. Hall played in eight games for the Tigers last year and ended the season with 307 yards and two touchdowns on 19 receptions. In 2017, he already has accumulated 454 yards and four touchdowns.
Hall torched Georgia for 141 yards and two touchdowns on Oct. 14, and he had four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown a week earlier against Kentucky. He's a sure-handed receiver who has found great chemistry with Lock, and he should tally his third 100-yard receiving performance Saturday.
As stated earlier, optimism and morale have been low this season for the Missouri faithful. The Tigers have yet to win an SEC game this year, and wins against the likes of Idaho don't make up for the team's lackluster performances for much of the season. That said, wins equal steps toward bowl eligibility, and Missouri could get closer to a spot in the postseason with a road win against UConn.
UConn's win over Tulsa last week injected life into a faltering season and also gave the Huskies their first conference win. While a loss against Missouri won't hurt the Huskies' standing in the American Athletic Conference, it could ensure that they won't sniff a .500 season with USF and UCF lurking around the corner.
Yes, Missouri is a shell of its former self, but even in its watered-down state, it should be able to handle UConn. The Tigers should win this one without much difficulty.
Prediction: Missouri 41, UConn 20
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.